Li Bai belongs to the "old guard" of Cantonese fine dining, much like Hua Ting or Wah Lok. The restaurant may have acquired a bit of an antiquated sheen over the decades like the eponymous Tang Dynasty poet of lore, but it's timeless and familiar. Li Bai was the spot of many a family dinner and weekend dim sum when I was growing up. Li Bai's classic Cantonese cuisine may not be the most innovative or spectacularly outstanding, but the food here is dependably and consistently good and service is always attentive and knowledgeable. In short, Li Bai is where you'd go to if you're in want of fail-safe Cantonese cuisine with faultless service in elegant digs that'll impress finicky grandmothers or world-weary business associates.
One of my favourite dim sums here is the Steamed Crystal Dumpling ($5.40 for 3), for its clean and clear flavours. Chewy gelatinous skin encases a sweet mix of diced pumpkin, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, carrots and wolfberries.
The ubiquitous Steamed Shrimp Dumplings ($8 for 4), or "har gow" is given a toothsome crunch with bamboo shoots.
The Chicken "Siew Mai" ($7.20 for 4) is lavishly topped with black fish roe and conpoy, and laced with juicy Chinese black mushroom strips. This is more delicate and "lighter" than the typical pork-based dumpling, and if you're like us, and prefer the muted to the acute, you'll love this.
Li Bai's rice rolls are thicker than the norm, but still scrumptiously smooth and soft. We loaded our Steamed Rice Rolls with Shrimp ($8) for a bouncy texture.
The Stir Fried Radish Cake with XO Chilli Sauce ($7.20) has a mellow smokiness that's balanced out by the crisp beansprouts.For fans of XO sauce, this may disappoint, because it isn't robust or spicy one bit.
The Stir-Fried Crispy Prawn with Mango ($6.90 for 3 rolls) is a nice balance between the sweet and savoury. The ripened mango cubes brought out the natural sweetness of the succulent prawns.
Another one of our favourite things here is the Deep Fried Crispy Scallop Rolls ($6.90 for 3 rolls), with tendrils of crunchy rice vermicelli wrapped around chunky scallop and prawn dice.
Li Bai's roasted meats are second to none, like their Roasted Pork ($13), which is not to be missed. This had the perfect fat-to-meat ratio, and a sumptuously thick layer of crackling skin.
I love the Chicken Congee ($6.50) here for its silky but still grainy consistency of gruel (so you know it's not overtly processed through a blender like many other places), and generous helping of plump mushroom strips.
Li Bai's signature appetizer of Crispy Taro Chips ($3 per person with tea), crisp as oil-free paper and addictive as hell.
Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant
39 Scotts Road
Sheraton Towers Singapore Hotel Lower Level (the hotel sometimes calls it the "ground floor" or "level 1" but for the avoidance of doubt, it's actually the basement 1)
Tel: 6839 5623
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch;
Daily from 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
Sundays from 10.30am to 2.30pm for lunch